Book History, Episodes

18. Have Book, Will Time Travel

 

Tuesday, the 8th of December, was Pretend to be a Time Traveller Day. Don’t ask me what in the world that is supposed to mean or what kind of presents it involves, but so far, science has let us down with its inability to come up with a time machine. Which means the best we can do is to open the pages of a book and journey along through time with the author’s imagination.

Please note: There is a little jumble in the info at the start. I talk about several stories that send the hero into the future, then I talk about a story that sends the hero into the past, then I say something like  “it seems authors were focussed only on sending people into the future.” Sigh, what can I say, it’s been a long year. So, apologies for any confusion.  

Links Mentioned in this Episode….

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Have Book, Will Time Travel (Rough Transcript)

Introduction

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

And this time we’re getting in our way back machines. Or maybe our way forward machines? Either way we’re traveling through time because Tuesday, the 8th of December, was Pretend to be a Time Traveller Day.

Don’t ask me what in the world that is supposed to mean or what kind of presents it involves, but I’m sure Doc Brown and Marty McFly could clue you in.

The Icky Part I Have to Do…

Before we start, just a reminder that this show is supported by you. Of course, since we’re speaking about time travel, you could use the fast forward feature on your podcast app to time travel past this part, but I’ll try to make this quick.

There are a ton of ways you can support the show and most are super inexpensive, including, as I mentioned last time, just doing your normal Amazon shopping through the Amazon affiliate link you’ll find on TheBookOwlPodcast.com/support. You don’t get charged any extra but every time you shop, I get an itty bitty commission that helps contribute to the time I spend bringing you these tidbits of entertainment.

And since it’s gift-giving season, also on that page you’ll find some snazzy Book Owl merchandise. I’ll admit some of these items are quite costly and I don’t earn much commission from them, but if you’re looking for something unique to treat yourself this holiday season, there’s notebooks, stickers, and t-shirts.

Intro Part Two Because Once Isn’t Enough

Okay, enough of that, let’s get time traveling. Or more accurately, let’s look at time travel in fiction throughout the ages. See, it’s sort of time traveling.

I think we’d all agree if we’d known what 2020 was going to involve a time travel machine would have been a well appreciated 2019 Christmas present so we could just skip over the year.

But so far, science has let us down with its inability to come up with a time machine. Which means the best we can do is to open the pages of a book and journey along through time with the author’s imagination.

Mythology Meets Physics

It turns out the concept of time travel stories aren’t anything new. Hindu mythology includes what might be recognized as the oldest time travel tale. In this story  the king travels to meet the creator god Brahma for I don’t know, maybe a nice chat and a cup of chai? Whatever his reason for going, when the king returns he finds out decades have whizzed by in his absence.

Which, if you know anything about physics, isn’t too far off the mark. Assuming Brahma lived in the sky or on top of a very high mountain, science does show that time moves more slowly for people who are under less gravity. So someone up in a spaceship actually ages less than someone on Earth. It’s a fascinating discovery, albeit an absolutely creepy one, and it has been proven using really accurate timepieces.

But this isn’t the Physics Owl Podcast, so let’s get back to the fictional side of time travel.

Japanese Sea Monkeys?

Moving up the ages and shifting over a few thousand miles to the east, we get a collection of fairy tales from Japan that dates to around 750 CE. One of these bedtime stories tells of a fisherman who decides catching fish isn’t how he wants to spend his weekend, so he heads underwater to hang out in a sea palace. And yes, this had me picturing a scene from a Sea Monkeys ad.

The fisherman hangs out with the Sea Monkeys for a few days, but when he returns to the surface, after he takes a big gulp of fresh air, he finds out he’s been transported 300 years in the future. And I hope he enjoyed his time in the sea palace because obviously by this time no one knows who he is, he’s lost his boat, and all of his family have died. Which does make this a pretty miserable fairy tale, so maybe we should move on.

Sleepy Head Time Travel

So while the idea of playing loose with time isn’t anything new, it does take a while for technology to catch up with time travel. Even though machines were already making their way into our lives and changing them sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, these machines take a long time to work their way into fiction.

And rather than jumping into a machine, we find a lot of earlier time wandering tales involves someone falling asleep and waking up in the future. Which makes me wonder if you force yourself to stay awake will you go back in time? Think about it.

Anyway some of these sleepy stories include Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving from 1819 , Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy from 1888, and The Sleeper Awakes by H.G. Wells who we’ll be returning to soon enough.

Ow, My Head!

Similar to the sleepy head version of time travel, is the conked on the head method of time travel. And probably one of the most humorous and famliar examples of this in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

There’s a lot going on in this simple tale, but the title pretty much sums it up. A man from Connecticut, Hank Morgan, gets hit on the head and this sends him back in time to King Arthur. Hank gets captured by one of Arthur’s knights, then uses his knowledge of the high tech world of 1889 to convince everyone he’s a magician and that it would be a really bad idea to kill him.

Hank tries to make things better for King Arthur and even tries to prevent Arthur from being killed, but no luck. And while this story was well-received in the US, in England they saw it as an attack on the institution of the monarchy.

Take Me Back

So, from these examples it would kind of seem that most writers were obsessed with getting a glimpse into the future, but a few, and some of the earliest time travel stories in English have our travelers going back in time.

These include the short story Missing One’s Coach: An Anachronism, and this was written anonymously in 1838 for the Dublin Literary Magazine. In it our hero waits under a tree for a coach to show up and falls asleep. When he wakes find himself roaming around in the 9th century. He tries to tell people about the future and a few believe him, but most thinks he’s a bit doodalalee.

Another early example of backward time travel comes from Paris avant les hommes (Paris before Men) written in 1861 by the French botanist and geologist Pierre Boitard, although it wasn’t published until after his death which is too bad for him because it turned out to be a pretty popular story. In this story, we finally see someone time traveling without falling asleep or receiving a head injury. Instead a magic demon sends the main character  into prehistoric times where he hangs out with dinosaurs. Maybe the precursor to Jurassic Park.

Twenty years later we get “Hands Off by Edward Everett Hale in which the main character goes back to Ancient Egypt and tries to change Biblical history by keeping Joseph from being enslaved by the pharaoh. And while this is one of a few stories of someone going back rather than forward in time, it’s also quite likely the first time travel book where the character’s interference alters history.  

A Little Back and Forth

But why stick with the past or the future? Can’t we have both? Yep, and Charles Dickens was ready to deliver this…well, sort of. His A Christmas Carol published in 1843, does take old Ebenezer back in time, but it’s not as if he can do anything while he’s there. It’s merely a memory the ghost of Xmas past is forcing him to remember.

And if memory is time traveling, I guess I’ll time travel back to a really tasty sandwich I had in Strasbourg last fall. But Ebenezer does the travel to the future. Or at least a potential future and it’s this potential future that is one of the key themes of time travel fiction.

As Scrooge says after seeing the dismal fate the ghost of Xmas yet to come has shown him “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me….Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!”

And yay, Tiny Tim lives happily ever after. Oh, I hope that wasn’t a spoiler for anyone.

The Rise of the Machines

But most of us, when we think of time travel probably aren’t thinking of naps, blows to the head, or creepy ghosts hanging out in our bedrooms. We have an image in mind of a machine like some strange chamber or a souped up Delorean, that moves our hero through time.

And while HG Wells’s Time Machine probably is the first thing that springs to mind, he wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of a manmade object making a mess of the world’s timeline.

In fact, we start out not with a large machine you step into, but with The Clock That Went Backward a story from 1881 by Edward Page Mitchell. Moving the hands of the clock shifted time. But unless you can open up the grandfather cook and step inside, it’s still not what we think of as a time machine, is it?

Finally in 1887 we get Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau’s El Anacronópete which is touted at the first story to have a true machine purpose built for time travel. It’s a huge iron box that’s like something straight out a steampunk novel with pneumatic tubes that are driven by electricity.

And weirdly enough, inside the machine are brooms that sweep themselves. Oh wait! Isn’t that a roomba! Anyway, all is going well as the voyagers visit various eras in the past, until it self destructs when they try to go to the day of creation.

Finally We Get to THE Time Machine

But of course, although there were predecessors the book that really stirred up the popularity of the time machine was HG Wells’s The Time Machine. This wasn’t Wells only foray into wandering around in time. Before this he’d written “The Chronic Argonauts” in 1888. Wells had thought of turning this story into something else, but wasn’t quite sure what exactly.

Then his publisher asked to see a serial novel based on time travel. Wells didn’t hesitate a moment to jump on the idea. The fact that the publisher was offering him the equivalent of 12K pounds in today’s money probably didn’t make the decision too tough to make.

In The Time Machine, the narrator is relating lectures about a man who traveled to the future and discovered a race of people who seemed happy and living the good life without having to work very hard, but then realizes it’s because another race of people have been forced to toil underground to keep everything running smoothly.

And much of the inspiration came from Wells own childhood where he and his family and the people they knew worked their fingers to the bone below stairs or literally underground in mines.

Time Travel Travel

But egad, that’s a bit depressing isn’t it? So let’s wrap up time travel on a happier note and that’s a subgenre of the time travel concept…Time tourism. Think about it. How many of us would love to take a time tour anywhere that isn’t 2020?

In 1948 American authors Catherine L. Moore and Henry Kuttner wrote the novella Vintage Season in which visitors from the future vacation at a rental home just when the owner wants to sell. The visitors like his place so much they tell heirs friends all about the quaint little place.

Then there’s Ray Bradbury’s 1952 Season of Thunder (season being a popular title, I guess) in which big game hunters get bored with killing off rhinos, lions, and elephants, and decide to time travel to the age of dinosaurs. I mean, go big or go home right?

Time Goes On

Anyway, the time travel genre started strong and continues to thrive today in books like Stephen King’s 11/22/63 when a man has to decide whether stopping the assassination of JFK is worth losing the love of his life.

There’s Diane Galbaldon’s Outlander series with men in kilts. Lots of kilts. And a woman who never seems for a moment phased by the fact she’s gone back a couple hundred years in time.

Michael Crichton brought the past to life with Jurassic Park, but he also took us back in time using some really amazing science research in his book Timeline.

And of course, we can’t leave off without Douglas Adams’ Hithchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series where the most sought after dining establishment is The Restaurant at the End of the Universe which is called Millways. Milliways is the nearest restaurant in space but not time, and is a five star restaurant situated at the end of time and matter.

As with anything in the Hitchhiker’s series it’s a hilarious concept, especially how you make reservations and raise the money to pay for a meal there, but if you do as describe you can watch the universe end night after night while enjoying your Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

Update Time

And that is it for time travel so that must mean it’s time for your favorite…updates! The podcast is still plugging along. Another big thanks goes out to Tierney of TierneyCreates.com for including The Book Owl’s history of cookbook episode as part of her Thanksgiving celebrations.

Other than that, my next episode will be a little bit different. One tagline for this podcast is everything books minus the reviews, but just to wrap up the year I’m going o share with you my favorite books of 2020, a year when many of us got more than our fair share of reading in.

As for writing, as I mentioned last time, I put in the order for my proof copies of the first two books of my Cassie Black trilogy. Well, they showed up the day after Thanksgiving and they came out pretty darn good. There’s still a little tweaking to do on the covers, but the interior looks great. This month, I’ll give the first book yet another read through while also doing a full rewrite on book three.

And just in case you like to do a little shopping for yourself, all three books are currently on pre-order on most retailers. Unfortunately, you can’t pre-order the paperbacks, but I usually release those just a few days ahead of the ebook release date just to make sure everything goes through on time. I’ll keep you posted on when those are live on the stores.

Signing Off

Okay my time traveling buddies, that is it for this episode. Have a great couple weeks, and I will hoot at you next time.   

The Book Owl Podcast is a production of Daisy Dog Media, Copyright 2020, All rights reserved. Theme Music “Monkeys Spinning Monkeys” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License Audio processing by Auphonic.com

Book History, Journalism, podcast

Fake News – The 1835 Version

Hello Book Nerds!

Fake news is nothing new, but it used to be a lot more fun. In this episode of the podcast, we  launch ourselves into some out of this world reporting from 1835 when The New York Sun published six articles that captured the world’s overactive imagination.

It’s a story that combines Edgar Allan Poe, the astronomer John Herschel, tailless beavers, and even Batman, and I know you’re going to love it.

Behind the Scenes

I had never heard of the Great Moon Hoax until about a month ago when I was looking over a book about steampunk culture (for research for a possible future writing project). A little side story in the book told about a hoax article Edgar Allan Poe had written back in the 1840s.

Since I’d recently read something about a bit of journalism flimflam that took place in Oregon in the late 1800s/early 1900s this got me curious about other news hoaxes. And that brought me to find the Great Moon Hoax.

To say I enjoyed this story is a complete understatement. Talk about laughing out loud. After the serious tone of the last episode, it was just what I needed. Of all the episodes so far (and I know there’s only six), this was my absolute favorite to research, write, and record.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Happy listening!!

One more note, subscribers to The Book Owl Podcast Newsletter get a bonus treat with every episode…and this time it’s images from the Great Moon Hoax articles! You don’t want to miss these or any future goodies, so do be sure to sign up today.

Clicking the image will take you to the episode’s web page where you can listen, or you can use the links just under the image to find plenty of other listening options. If you’d like to read along, a rough transcript is a bit lower down.

Listening links…

Links mentioned…

The Transcript

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

It’s episode six and this time we’re stepping away from books and wandering into the wild world of journalism and newspapers. Now, if you’ve dared to look at any social media over the past few years, you’ll have seen a certain person shouting about Fake News. Whether or not you want to believe those tirades, fake news is real. Or at least it was back in August 1835 when the country, and even the world was swept up in some truly out of this world fake news. Hold on to your spaceships because as I promised last time, this is going to be a fun episode.

But first, I just want to say if you’re enjoying this podcast you can show your support by doing nothing other than the shopping you normally do. See, the folks over at Amazon have said to The Book Owl, “If you send customers our way, we’ll give you a tiny commission.” And the Book Owl said, “Hooty-licious!” 

How it works is that for any item you buy on Amazon, I’ll get a tiny percentage to help with the costs of keeping the show running. It’s costs you nothing extra and it’s super simple. All you have to do is, the next time you think you need something from Amazon, rather than going directly to Amazon, go instead to the book owl podcast dot com slash support and head to Amazon using the link on that page and then I get my commission. This only applies to my U.S. listeners, but that page has other super affordable ways to help keep the show running.

Okay, are you ready for some fake news? Then let’s get in the way back machine and head to New York, 1835.

It’s the 25th of August and as people open up their copies of the New York Sun they’re greeted with the first of six articles about a major scientific discovery. It could revolutionize their understanding of the world, it could mean we’re not alone in the universe, or it could just mean people are really, really gullible.

So these articles became known as the Great Moon Hoax and were supposed to have been written by Dr. Andrew Grant to report on a study published in the Edinburgh Journal of Science. Now, scientific journals aren’t anything you would normally pick up to read. Because laypeople couldn’t possibly understand the complexities of scientific jargon, Grant decided to write a series of articles explaining in easy to read language an amazing discovery. 

Grant, who I’ll just tell you now was a complete fabrication, was a colleague of Sir John Herschel and these articles reported on Herschel’s recent work.

Now John Herschel was a real person and he really was an astronomer among many other things. In Grant’s story, Herschel had gone to South Africa in 1834 to set up a huge telescope at a new observatory. The first article was primarily about this telescope and the set up. But the next few articles were all about what Herschel observed using this telescope.

And what did Herschel observe? Wonders upon wonders! I mean the very fact that Herschel didn’t have heart failure from the excitement should have been a clue this was a hoax. I mean the moon was amazing! First there was the landscape. A white pockmarked surface? Hell no! Sure the moon had its craters, but it also featured amethyst crystal outcroppings, flowing rivers, lush tropical vegetation, and beaches. 

What? Tell me more! Sorry, you need to buy the next paper to learn that these landscapes were nothing compared to Herschel’s other findings.

And people did. Basically, the New York Sun was running the click bait scam of the day. The paper’s sales prior to these articles had been slumping, but as people became eager to learn more about this unprecedented discovery, sales dare I say, skyrocketed.

But that’s not to say people didn’t get their money’s worth. Because the next article revealed…are you ready for this…

There was life on the moon. And you’re going to want to really pay attention here because this is good. So we start off a bit tame with some bison, then move up to unicorns (because why not), but there were also two-legged tail-less beavers (I’m not sure how these are beavers at this point, but…), and human like beings with bat wings. Yes, the moon, not Gotham City, was the original home of Batman. 

Unfortunately the moon missed out on a huge franchise opportunity by naming them man bats. Grant reported Herschel had, and I quote, “scientifically denominated them as Vespertillo homo, or man bat and they are doubtless innocent and happy creatures.” 

Okay so as I said, Grant was a pseudonym, and it’s believed that  the actual author of the articles was a man named Richard Adams Locke, who honestly didn’t think people were gullible enough to believe this stuff. But as we know, people believe what they want to believe. And you couldn’t argue with the sales The Sun was seeing. So, Locke wisely kept mum about the hoax.

 The story wasn’t just being picked up in New York. It spread throughout the U.S. And across the pond to Italy, Germany, and the UK. Even a big ol’ smarty pants like Ralph Waldo Emerson was taken in. As were some scientists from Yale who, as scientists are wont to do, were eager to see the source material for Grant’s articles. 

So they traveled to New York to see first hand the study in the Edinburgh Journal of Science. Trouble was, that scientific journal had ceased publication in 1833. But as I said, Locke and the Sun wanted to keep things under wraps to keep sales coming in, so they ended up shuffling these Yale guys from the printing office to another office back to the printing office until the guys couldn’t stay any longer. They returned to Yale none the wiser.

Eventually however, people began to question the articles’ veracity. And this doubt started with the very first article that one where they were talking about Herschel’s telescope set up. This was supposedly a telescope with a diameter of 24 feet and weighed 7 tons, or 6700 kilograms. This massive thing according to the article had been transported from England to South Africa, and this was the early 1800s, they had enough trouble just transporting basic cargo let alone a giant delicate piece of scientific equipment. 

The skeptics finally got their way and a month after the first article came out, The Sun revealed that all the articles were indeed just a bit of satire. In fact, Locke, remember he’s the guy who had written the articles, had a specific target he was poking fun at. 

See, astronomy was capturing people’s imagination…maybe a bit too much. In 1824 a German professor of astronomy…a professor mind you, published a paper with the lengthy title of “Discovery of Many Distinct traces of lunar inhabitants, especially one of their colossal buildings.” In the paper he reports seeing roads and cities on the moon. I think the professor was dipping into the beer stein a few too many times during the day. 

But it was papers like these that had people convinced life really did exist on the moon and this led up to speculations by Reverend Thomas Dick who asserted without any room for doubt that that moon had 4.2 billion inhabitants. Now keep in mind that Earth at that time had only around 1 billion people living on it. Locke couldn’t resist poking fun at such an idea. And poke he did.

So what was the end result of this? Did people cry foul at the Sun, did they demand the paper be shut down, did they cancel their subscriptions? Nope. They had a good laugh at themselves and The Sun’s sales stayed fairly steady.

And the hoax wasn’t just a one and done thing. Over the next few months you could buy yourself Moon Hoax Merchandise including wall paper and snuff boxes. From the time of the big reveal and throughout the rest of 19th century anything deceptive was called Moon Hoax-y. 

But what about Herschel? Was his career ruined by this hoax? Did people claim he was less credible as a scientist? Nope again. In fact, at first he was amused by the articles and kind of enjoyed the silliness of them. But as the years went on he got a little annoyed because people kept asking him about the life he’d discovered on the moon. 

The only person who seems to have been really bothered by the hoax was Edgar Allan Poe. See Locke had been his editor, and a few months prior to the hoax, Poe had written a short story about life on the moon, with some similarities to the Great Moon Hoax articles. A story Locke had edited. The story had been published in another paper but was never popular. I think Poe was mainly upset that Locke’s version of the story got more attention than his own. But a few years later, the Sun published another series of hoax articles written by Poe about a hot air ballon ride over the Atlantic. Unfortunately for Poe, these articles just didn’t grab the world like the Great Moon Hoax.

So that’s it for the moon hoax. All I can say is that the fake news of 1835 was way more entertaining than the supposed fake news of today. 

For those of you who get The Book Owl Podcast newsletter I’m going to include a few wonderful images of those moon inhabitants as part of your bonus goodies. If you aren’t already part of the flock, be sure to sign up at the book owl podcast dot com slash contact. 

If you’d like to keep listening I’ve got a quick personal update as well as a Book Owl update coming up, but if you’re done, I just want to thank you for putting me in your ears. And if you like what you’ve heard, it’d be wonderful if you told just one other person about the show.

Okay, update time.

As the Book Owl Podcast. We’ve made a new nest over on YouTube! That’s right. There’s not really video, it’s just a show graphic, but if you click play you’ll get the full podcast episode right through your computer speakers. If you’re a fan of YouTube, I’ll have the link to the channel in the show notes, or you can just search for the book owl podcast the next time you’re popping into YouTube Land. 

As for my personal update, during the month of June I’m taking a break from my Cassie Black contemporary fantasy trilogy. Starting July , I’ll be editing and rewriting like mad, so I wanted to give my brain some time off from it. In the meantime though I’ve been drafting a stand alone novel that combines fantasy with a tiny bit of sci-fi. I’m more than half way through…which means I’ve climbed the highest hill and now should have smooth sailing from here on out. Or so I hope.

Alright everyone, that is it for The Book Owl, Thanks so much for listening and I will hoot at you next time!

The book owl podcast is a production fo daisy dog media, copyright 2020, all rights reserved. The theme music was composed by Kevin Macleod.